June-July 2022 | Features

The homeless shelter that needs a home

The homeless shelter that needs a home

The story of an innovative Rotary project that helped the homeless population across the Midlands and its hopes for the future post-pandemic.

Back in 2017, Angelo Buratti of the Birmingham Breakfast Rotary Club was trying to think of a way to help the homeless off the streets but without the funds it would take to build a brick-built unit.

When it was realised that they could use a shelter that could move around to where it’s needed, that’s when the idea for a suitably equipped bus came around.

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Angelo recalls: “I came up with the idea of getting the bus, then went about with one of the guys at Rotary who was an architect to design the inside of the bus and then I redesigned it myself and got it fitted.”

That design included 10 private, secure overnight sleeping pods, a light cooking space, washing and toilet facilities, provision for pets, and a medical/private consultation space.

The bus officially took to the streets of Wolverhampton in 2019, with the Shelterbus team led by Angelo’s son Luca Buratti.

I think there is a future for the bus and I think what it needs is a charity that can think outside the box.”

Even the brief time the bus was able to operate before lockdown, Angelo was able to see the impact the bus had for the homeless community.

He explains: “The bus is a really good intermediate point because there’s a lot of people who’ve come off the streets that don’t want to sleep in a brick building because they all sleep together for fear of people pinching their stuff, whereas the bus has more security.

“The bus got used by an organisation that was providing shelter for people and just before lockdown people were actually breaking into the bus!”

The Rotary Shelterbus team during the bus’s launch.

Alas, like so many other projects in 2020, the Shelterbus had to be taken out of service as they couldn’t have large groups of people congregating on the bus.

After a while of being housed by Wolverhampton charity The Good Shepherd, Birmingham Breakfast Rotary had to make the hard decision of cutting ties with the bus, so Angelo took matters into his own hands.

Angelo remembers: “I wouldn’t accept the idea of it, the bus just turning to nothing, so I ended up taking over the bus.”

Despite the pandemic hampering progress, Angelo still believes there is a demand for the Shelterbus and that it could make an impact in the hands of the right charity or organisation.

He states: “I think there is a future for the bus and I think what it needs is a charity that can think outside the box.

“For individual companies who want to put money into helping charitable organisations, that bus works as an advertising platform to let people understand the plight of homelessness.”

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